On the flight back from Florida last night, I thought about the importance of engaging in nonprofit organizations during college and early stages of your career. Not only does it provide real-world experience but it also builds your network.
That point was driven home as I spent the long weekend with fellow board members of the Indiana State University Foundation to discuss accomplishments and challenges facing our alma mater. Each board member is involved in multiple other nonprofit causes ranging from after-school programs to zoos. But we all were more than a little impressed when President Dan Bradley said ISU is #1 in Washingtonian Magazine’s ranking of 281 national universities in the category of community service participation and hours worked by students, faculty and staff.
Following the board meeting, I talked with Dr. Bradley who said the entire university population logged over a million hours of community service last year. That’s an impressive accomplishment for 11,500 students and 1,500 faculty and staff. Do the math, and it annually nets out to about 100 hours per person. President Bradley’s enthusiasm for volunteerism explains why Indiana State ranks #2 in the country for the level of university support for service learning. The program is operated by Nancy Rogers, associate vice president of Community Engagement and Experiential Learning.
After talking with President Bradley, I followed up with several young staff members to learn more about the university’s obvious culture of community engagement. It became apparent that the university plays a major role in every aspect of the city of Terre Haute, although many also devote significant time to state boards and professional associations.
Staff cited personal commitment to a variety of organizations, and said they appreciate the university’s support which includes the equivalent of two paid days off each year for volunteer activities.
Kim Block Kunz, director of communications for the Foundation, picks different organizations each year where she devotes her volunteer time. This broadens her insights into a variety of organizations. Another impressive staff member, Roland Shelton, vice president for constituent relations, listed seven nonprofits in which he is actively involved, including the Public Works Board (City of Terre Haute), Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Adviser, and board member of Boys & Girls Club, Negro League Baseball Museum and Vigo County School Superintendent Board. He also serves as a mentor for the ISU Mentoring Assistance Program (MAP).
During the board dinner, nobody at our table seemed surprised with the ISU community engagement ranking and they each recalled their own college involvement activities and how they set the foundation for their current success. We all agreed that engaging in nonprofit governance and financial discussions makes you more comfortable with such business conversations in future employment situations where it really counts towards career progression.
In college, I may have been overly involved in extra-curricular activities, but not a day goes by now that I don’t recall memories and learnings from those experiences that greatly influenced me over the years. Simply put, volunteering is good for your community, your career and your life.